Alan Lomax 1915-2002
American Folklorist Alan Lomax died on July 19th at a retirement home in Florida. Funeral services were held in Tarpon Springs, Florida on July 23rd.
While there is some controversy amongst folklorists related to his assuming the copyrights of some of the material he “discovered” — no great surprise, considering the climate of the time that they worked in, and a controversy no doubt partially fueled by other folklorists’ jealousy of the enormity of the Lomax contribution — it is inarguable that Alan and his father, John Lomax, permanently changed the landscape of music forever. They brought great artists such as Muddy Waters and Son House to the masses. The Lomax father/son team was also responsible for bringing us many of the classics, such as “House of the Rising Sun,” which was surprising first discovered in Eastern Kentucky being sung by a young teenage girl, rather than being discovered in a Southern gin house. His influence continues to be prominent and current, with two songs from the Lomax collection making their way onto the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. The original versions of “Po Lazarus” and “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” can be found within his collection.
According a conversation that I had with his nephew, John Lomax III, last week, Rounder Records has to-date issued 80 CDs of the recordings that he collected. They estimate that another 70 releases will be required in order to make them all available to the public.
The family suggests that contributions be made to: The Blues Music Foundation for the Willie Moore Fund, c/o Experience Music Project, 2901 3rd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121.